When Susan Alberti arrived in Ballarat on Friday, she stopped to check out some grassroots football ground this city has to offer. Mostly just for interest.
Alberti’s passion for the game and promoting women in the game is infectious.
The Western Bulldogs vice-president, and president of the club’s Victorian Football League arm Footscray, was impressed by this city’s female football contingent – players, coaches, administrators, team managers, umpires – all gathered for lunch. This was no fluffy, token gesture meal from the Ballarat Football League but a celebration and tribute for the growing number of women committed to the region’s football development.
The Bulldogs sport four female directors, more than any rival AFL club. Alberti said it was great to have women on the board – but they were there because they were good at what they do.
“Male or female, they have to be the best candidate for the job,” Alberti said. “That’s the way it always has to be with me – it has to be the best person.”
Alberti is a fierce advocate for recognition in women’s work. One of her keen interests is developing opportunity for female footballers in the AFL. The Bulldogs and Melbourne have pioneered the women’s game on the national stage, now in the third year of AFL-sanctioned women’s matches.
Women’s football is booming – just look at the BFL youth girls competition – and Alberti said more people should take a look at the skill, athleticism and excitement in the AFL women’s game. The AFL is planning to launch a national league in 2017, which Alberti said coincided with the Bulldogs’ move to bring AFL games to Ballarat. She wants to bring game’s best female footballers to this city.
But the AFL had to get the women’s league launch just right to make it work.
“The AFL has got to be careful. We’ve got to make sure the talent it there and each club has a fair representation of talent,” Alberti said. “We’ve got to built the league very gradually to get the right talent to draw support.”
Alberti said Bulldogs’ head coach Luke Beveridge was a fantastic supporter of the women’s game and the club’s female players. Their first training session this year drew the whole men’s squad to the sidelines, “gobsmacked” at the skills.
Ballarat AFL export Kaitlyn Ashmore was drafted to the Bulldogs this year. Ashmore said Alberti was spoken about like royalty at the Bulldogs – she made amazing opportunity happen. The Bulldogs called on Ashmore to help lead a superclinic in her hometown this week.
“There were lots of girls there, which I was pretty happy about,” Ashmore said. “I was the only girl from the Doggies team but the guys were great to work with. Stuart Crameri helped show me how to lead a clinic.”
The BFL function was powerful: women sitting down to talk football because they are good at what they do in the game and passionate in what they are talking about.